Hinduism,Cosmos ,Sanatan Dharma.Ancient Hinduism science.
MUMBAI: As the roar of the engines of the Air Force jets died down when the air show ended on Sunday, there were a few whose thoughts went back to the first flight of a plane at the very Chowpatty beach over which the air show was held.
In 1895 an Indian pioneer flew what is said to be the first Indian plane in the air. The centenary year of the first successful flight, by the Wright brothers, was celebrated from December 17, 2003. But our own pioneer from Mumbai, Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, made an aircraft and had flown it eight years earlier. One of Talpade’s students, P Satwelkar, has chronicled that his craft called ‘Marutsakha'(Friend of the Winds) flew unmanned for a few minutes and came down.
Talpade belonged to the Pathare Prabhu community, one of the founder of Mumbai. According to aviation historians Mr Talpade used his knowledge of the Rig Vedas to build a plane. Orville and Wilbert Wright accomplished their feat in California on December 17,1903. Their flight lasted for 37 seconds.
The Wright brothers based the design of their aircraft by studying bird movements. Mr Talpade used the principle of solar energy combined with mercury to design his plane.
Pratap Velkar, in his book on the Pathare Prabhu community, says that Mr Talpade also studied the achievements of aviation pioneers like Alva Edison who flew in a balloon and survived a mishap in 1880. Mr Talpade’s study included the experiment of machine gun inventor Hiram Maxim who propelled his steam plane down a slope. It did not take off for technical reasons.
In 1896 Samuel Langley’s steam balloon flew at a height of 100 feet and a three quarters of a mile. Then came the famous Zeppelin 1900 which successfully flew at a height of 1100 feet after three attempts in Germany.
The first breakthrough in flying was made by a Brazlian, Santos D’Monte. He made 14 planes between 1901 and 1904 in his country. And he flew them himself. Many believe that Santos was the first successful flier and not the Wright Brothers.
According to Mr Velkar, Mr Talpade studied these flights which inspired him to make an aircraft and fly. Mr Talpade was staying at what is today Nagindas Shah Marg in Girgaum in the bustling heart of Mumbai. The frame of the historic plane was gathering dust at his house after his death. One of his nieces, Roshan Talpade, has been quoted by Mr Velkar’s book saying the family used to sit in the aircraft’s frame and imagine they were flying. At a recent exhibition on flying at Vile Parle, a model of ‘Marutsakha’ was exhibited.
Mr Velkar regrets that Mr Talpade’s plane has not found a place in the aviation museum at Nehru Centre, nor is there a memorial to his feat at Chowpatty.
However some documents relating to his experiment have been preserved at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bangalore.
At an aeronautical conference in Chennai Talpade’s flight was discussed by foreign delegates. D H Bedekar, one-time principal defence scientific officer, has said Mr Talpade’s plane for some technical reasons failed to operate to its full design limits.
Talpade wanted to unravel the mystery with further experiments. He even made an appeal for funds some Rs 50,000 at a public meeting in Ahmedabad he had addressed. But to no avail. As his biographer,Professor Kelkar, wrote: “His efforts crashed like a bird whose wings are slashed.”
In contrast the US army donated 25,000 dollars to the Wright brothers to pursue their feat. In turn the brothers’ invention redefined how the US fought its wars.
The Rig Veda, the oldest document of the human race includes references to the following modes of transportation: Jalayan – a vehicle designed to operate in air and water (Rig Veda 6.58.3); Kaara- Kaara- Kaara- a vehicle that operates on ground and in water. (Rig Veda 9.14.1); Tritala- Tritala- Tritala- a vehicle consisting of three stories. (Rig Veda 3.14.1); Trichakra Ratha – Trichakra Ratha – Trichakra Ratha – a three-wheeled vehicle designed to operate in the air. (Rig Veda 4.36.1); Vaayu Ratha- Vaayu Ratha- Vaayu Ratha- a gas or wind-powered chariot. (Rig Veda 5.41.6); Vidyut Ratha- Vidyut Ratha- Vidyut Ratha- a vehicle that operates on power. (Rig Veda 3.14.1).
Ancient Sanskrit literature is full of descriptions of flying machines – Vimanas. From the many documents found it is evident that the scientist-sages Agastya and Bharadwaja had developed the lore of aircraft construction.
The “Agastya Samhita” gives us Agastya`s descriptions of two types of aeroplanes. The first is a “chchatra” (umbrella or balloon) to be filled with hydrogen. The process of extracting hydrogen from water is described in elaborate detail and the use of electricity in achieving this is clearly stated. This was stated to be a primitive type of plane, useful only for escaping from a fort when the enemy had set fire to the jungle all around. Hence the name “Agniyana”. The second type of aircraft mentioned is somewhat on the lines of the parachute. It could be opened and shut by operating chords. This aircraft has been described as “vimanadvigunam” i.e. of a lower order than the regular aeroplane.
Aeronautics or Vaimaanika Shastra is a part of Yantra Sarvasva of Bharadwaja. This is also known as Brihadvimaana Shastra. Vaimaanikashastra deals about aeronautics, including the design of aircraft, the way they can be used for transportation and other applications, in detail. The knowledge of aeronautics is described in Sanskrit in 100 sections, eight chapters, 500 principles and 3000 slokas. Great sage Bharadwaja explained the construction of aircraft and way to fly it in air, on land, on water and use the same aircraft like a sub-marine. He also described the construction of war planes and fighter aircraft.
Vaimaanika Shastra explains the metals and alloys and other required material, which can be make an aircraft imperishable in any condition. Planes which will not break (abhedya), or catch fire (adaahya) and which cannot be cut (achchedya) have been described. Along with the treatise there are diagrams of three types of aeroplanes – “Sundara”, “Shukana” and “Rukma”.
The aircraft is classified into three types- Mantrika, Tantrika and Kritaka, to suit different yugas or eras. In kritayuga, it is said, Dharma was well established. The people of that time had the devinity to reach any place using their Ashtasiddhis. The aircraft used in Tretayuga are called Mantrikavimana, flown by the power of hymns (mantras). Twenty-five varieties of aircraft including Pushpaka Vimana belong to this era. The aircraft used in Dwaparayuga were called Tantrikavimana, flown by the power of tantras. Fiftysix varieties of aircraft including Bhairava and Nandaka belong to this era. The aircraft used in Kaliyuga, the on-going yuga, are called Kritakavimana, flown by the power of engines. Twenty-five varieties of aircraft including “Sundara”, “Shukana” and “Rukma” belong to this era.
Bharadwaja states that there are thirty-two secrets of the science of aeronautics. Of these some are astonishing and some indicate an advance even beyond our own times. For instance the secret of “para shabda graaha”, i.e. a cabin for listening to conversation in another plane, has been explained by elaborately describing an electrically worked sound-receiver that did the trick. Manufacture of different types of instruments and putting them together to form an aircraft are also described.
It appears that aerial warfare was also not unknown, for the treatise gives the technique of “shatru vimana kampana kriya” and “shatru vimana nashana kriya” i.e. shaking and destroying enemy aircraft, as well as photographing enemy planes, rendering their occupants unconscious and making one`s own plane invisible.
In Vastraadhikarana, the chapter describing the dress and other wear required while flying, talks in detail about the wear for both the pilot and the passenger separately.
Ahaaraadhikarana is yet another section exclusively dealing with the food habits of a pilot. This has a variety of guidelines for pilots to keep their health through strict diet.
Bhardwaja also provides a bibliography. He had consulted six treatises by six different authors previous to him and he gives their names and the names of their works in the following order : Vimana Chandrika by Narayanamuni; Vyoma Yana Mantrah by Shaunaka; Yantra Kalpa by Garga; Yana Bindu by Vachaspati; Kheta Yaana Pradeepika by Chaakraayani; Vyoma Yaanarka Prakasha by Dundi Natha.
As before Bharadwaja, after him too there have been Sanskrit writers on aeronautics and there were four commentaries on his work. The names of the commentators are Bodh Deva, Lalla, Narayana Shankha and Vishwambhara.
Evidence of existence of aircrafts are also found in the Arthasastra of Kautilya (c. 3rd century B.C.). Kautilya mentions amongst various tradesmen and technocrats the Saubhikas as `pilots conducting vehicles in the sky`. Saubha was the name of the aerial flying city of King Harishchandra and the form `Saubika` means `one who flies or knows the art of flying an aerial city`. Kautilya uses another significant word `Akasa Yodhinah`, which has been translated as `persons who are trained to fight from the sky.` The existence of aerial chariots, in whatever form it might be, was so well-known that it found a place among the royal edicts of the Emperor Asoka which were executed during his reign from 256 B.C. – 237 B. C.
It is interesting to note that the Academy of Sanskrit Research in Melkote, near Mandya, had been commissioned by the Aeronautical Research Development Board, New Delhi, to take up a one-year study, ‘Non-conventional approach to Aeronautics’, on the basis of Vaimanika Shastra. As a result of the research, a glass-like material which cannot be detected by radar has been developed by Prof Dongre, a research scholar of Benaras Hindu University. A plane coated with this unique material cannot be detected using radar. (Did You Know this?